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John Hancock

Informal. a person's signature:
Put your John Hancock onthis check.
Origin of John Hancock
1840-50, Americanism; named after John Hancock, from the boldness and legibility of his signature


[han-kok] /ˈhæn kɒk/
Herbert Jeffrey ("Herbie") born 1940, U.S. jazz pianist and composer.
John, 1737–93, American statesman: first signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Winfield Scott, 1824–86, Union general in the Civil War. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for John Hancock
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • If this were so, she was to offer it first for purchase to John Hancock.

    Diary of Anna Green Winslow

    Anna Green Winslow
  • His grandson, John Hancock, came to live with him, and went to school with us.

    Ben Comee

    M. J. (Michael Joseph) Canavan
  • But if Fendrick could get at him some way he might put down his John Hancock.

    Crooked Trails and Straight William MacLeod Raine
  • He rushed back to the register and wrote "Seattle" as big as a John Hancock.

    A Summer's Outing Carter H. Harrison
  • In 1777 he succeeded John Hancock as president of the continental congress.

    Revolutionary Reader Sophie Lee Foster
  • This letter was a great surprise to John Hancock and the other leaders of Congress.

    Lafayette, We Come! Rupert S. Holland
  • These, upon the demolition of that church, in 1774, were the gift of John Hancock.

    Dealings With The Dead A Sexton of the Old School
  • In 1773 John Hancock was elected treasurer of Harvard college.

  • John Hancock's signature is noted for its big, bold letters.

    The Story of American History Albert F. Blaisdell
British Dictionary definitions for John Hancock

John Hancock

(US & Canadian, informal) a person's signature: put your John Hancock on this form Also called John Henry
Word Origin
after John Hancock, from his clear and legible signature on the American Declaration of Independence


Anthony John, known as Tony. 1924–68, British comedian, noted for his radio series Hancock's Half Hour
John. 1737–93, American statesman; first signatory of the Declaration of Independence
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for John Hancock

colloquial for "signature," 1903 (sometimes, through some unexplainable error, John Henry), from the Boston merchant and rebel (1736-1793), signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. The extended sense is from his signing that dangerous document first or most flamboyantly.

John Hancock, president of Congress, was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence, writing his name in large, plain letters, and saying: "There; John Bull can read my name without spectacles. Now let him double the price on my head, for this is my defiance." [Hélène Adeline Guerber, "The Story of the Thirteen Colonies," New York, 1898]
The family name is attested from 1276 in Yorkshire, a diminutive (see cock) of Hann, a very common given name in 13c. Yorkshire as a pet form of Henry or John.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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John Hancock in Culture

John Hancock definition

A signature: “Please help us out and put your John Hancock on our petition.” The expression refers to the bold signature that John Hancock wrote on the Declaration of Independence.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for John Hancock

John Hancock

noun phrase

One's signature

[1903+; fr the fact that John Hancock of Massachusetts was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776; John Henry, possibly by confusion with Patrick Henry, because of the prominence of John Henry as a folklore hero, and by near-rhyming resemblance]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with John Hancock

John Hancock

Also,John Henry. One's signature, as in Just put your John Hancock on the dotted line. This expression alludes to John Hancock's prominent signature on the Declaration of Independence. The variant simply substitutes a common name for “Hancock.” [ Mid-1800s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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